There is a lot of chaos in our country right now and it can get overwhelming and occasionally even frightening. I sometimes (often?) would prefer to just be an ostrich and bury my head in the sand. Wake me up when Rome stops burning, and if it never stops, then at least I won’t have had to watch it go up in flames.
But, I’m also a student of history, and I have studied the late 1960s and 70s pretty extensively. I always say that if we survived the 70s, we can survive today because the parallels are uncanny, really.
In the 1960s and 70s, distrust of the government was at an all-time high, thanks to the Vietnam War and the Nixon/Watergate scandal. The era marked a shift in how Americans viewed the government, one which we definitely see on display in full-force now, and one which would still prevail, regardless of the party in power.
The time period was marked by race riots, some of which started over police brutality, some of which resulted in martial law and calling in the National Guard and federal troops. In one of those riots, 16 people were killed and nearly 500 were injured.
In addition to the race riots, mass protests against a very unpopular war characterized the era. Soldiers dealing with the after effects of Agent Orange and yet-to-be-named PTSD from the guerrilla warfare conditions of Vietnam returned home only to discover they were often not welcome here, either. Visitors to the White House unleashed cockroaches and emptied vials of their own blood in the residence (source: The Residence by Kate Anderson Brower). Four students were killed at a rally at Kent State, leading to a student strike.
The foremost leader of the Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. So was Bobby Kennedy. So had been John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X earlier in the decade.
Planes crashed. Hurricanes hit. A President resigned before he could be impeached.
The era of the Flower Child had a dark side, and it was wild.
Do you see the similarities? If it’s not yet abundantly clear, I’ll even make some pop culture references.
Protest music captured the airwaves, and songs such as War (“what is it good for, absolutely nothin'”) and What’s Going On (“picket lines and picket signs; don’t punish me with brutality”) dominated the charts.
Compare that to songs released just this summer by the Chicks (aka, the Artists formerly known as the Dixie Chicks) and Eric Church. The Chicks’ March, March includes lyrics such as “March, march to my own drum, hey, hey, I’m an army of one…temperature’s are rising, cities are sinking…”. Eric Church’s “Stick that in your Country Song” begins with, ‘Take me on up to Detroit city; jails are full, the factories empty. Momma’s crying, young boys dying, under that red white and blue still flying.”
Even fashion has swung back around to the bell-bottom, rainbow platform days of the hippies. But, I’m not complaining about that part…scroll to the bottom of the post to see how I’ve fully embraced the retro trends.
My point in this history lesson is that history does repeat itself. And while not all of the repetitions are ones we would necessarily want to experience again, the coming out on the other side is something that we can look forward to. And that’s what I am hopeful about – yes, the 1960s and 70s were a rough time. 2020 is a rough time, and it has been a rough time for a few years now. But, we survived it 50 years ago…we can survive it again.
However, there is one difference between now and the 60s/70s, and I think it’s pretty crucial. I don’t think Americans hated each other as much then. Sure, there was a lot of anger and fear and hatred floating around, but I don’t think we took it out on our neighbors as much. Or if we did, social media wasn’t around to heighten the intensity and display it for all of those who might not otherwise hate each other to see.
So, I think it’s important to learn from our history so that even while it is repeating itself, we don’t make the same mistakes. Or, we don’t make a different mistake because we’re not taking the lessons it offers to heart. And the ultimate lesson that we need, I think, is the other message that the 60s and 70’s brought us: love. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now. All you need is love – love is all you need. We are family.
With a little more love and compassion for each other, we can emerge stronger and better. But only if we work with each other – not against each other.
And now, for my favorite part of the post – the fashion. The last time bell-bottoms were in style was the 90s, actually. I was in middle school then, and I mostly stuck to the safer “flares”. But, I’m bolder in my old age, and I am in love with these full-on bells that I have. The outfit is made complete by a crop-top (only slightly cropped because I am in my 30s…), long straight hair, and rainbow platforms.
When I was a kid, my mom had some rainbow platform flipflops that she probably had owned for a decade or more by the time I showed up. But, I was obsessed with them. These shoes remind me of hers, which adds another dimension of fun to this whole look.
Thank you for reading. As a reward for having made it this far, I was going to tell you the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me lately (and you know, I asked out my chiropractor, so it’s a high bar). But, I’ve talked enough, so I’ll simply tease you with that headline for now and a promise to tell you the story soon.
Thanks for reading.